I148M variant in PNPLA3 reduces central adiposity and metabolic disease risks while increasing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Liver Int. 2015 Dec;35(12):2537-46. doi: 10.1111/liv.12909. Epub 2015 Jul 23.


Background & aims: The I148M variant because of the substitution of C to G in PNPLA3 (rs738409) is associated with the increased risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In liver, I148M variant reduces hydrolytic function of PNPLA3, which results in hepatic steatosis; however, its association with the other clinical phenotype such as adiposity and metabolic diseases is not well established.

Methods: To identify the impact of I148M variant on clinical risk factors of NAFLD, we recruited 1363 generally healthy Korean males after excluding alcoholic and secondary causes of hepatic steatosis. Central adiposity was assessed by computed tomography, and hepatic steatosis was evaluated by abdominal ultrasonography.

Results: The participants were predominantly middle-aged (49.0 ± 7.1 years; range 30-60 years), and the frequency of NAFLD was 44.2%. The rs738409-G allele carriers had a 1.19-fold increased risk for NAFLD (minor allele frequency 0.43; allelic odds ratio 1.38; P = 4.3 × 10(-5) ). Interestingly, the rs738409 GG carriers showed significantly lower levels of visceral and subcutaneous adiposity (P < 0.001 and = 0.015, respectively), BMI (P < 0.001), triglycerides (P < 0.001) and insulin resistance (P = 0.002) compared to CC carriers. These negative associations between clinical risk factors and rs738409-G dosage were more prominent in non-NAFLD group compared to those in NAFLD group.

Conclusions: The I148M variant, although increasing the risk of NAFLD, was associated with reduced levels of central adiposity, BMI, serum triglycerides and insulin resistance, suggesting differential roles in fat storage and distribution according to cell types and metabolic status.

Keywords: I148M variant; insulin resistance; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; obesity; triglyceride.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / genetics
  • Lipase / genetics*
  • Liver* / metabolism
  • Liver* / pathology
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Metabolic Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Diseases* / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / diagnosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / genetics
  • Obesity, Abdominal* / diagnosis
  • Obesity, Abdominal* / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Republic of Korea
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Lipase
  • adiponutrin, human